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Game Night (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

Game Night


Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Jeffrey Wright, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti, Camille Chen, Zerrick Deion Williams, Joshua Mikel, RF Daley, John Francis Daley, Michael Cyril Creighton, Brooke Jaye Taylor, Charlotte Hazzard and Jonathan Goldstein.

Screenplay by Mark Perez.

Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

Distributed by Warner Bros. 100 minutes. Rated R.

I’m not going to lie – I went into Game Night with pretty low expectations. After all, it was directed by actor John Francis Daley (Freaks & Geeks, Bones) and his longtime professional partner Jonathan Goldstein. Their only other film together as directors was the gawdawful reboot of Vacation.

The two Johns have had better luck as screenwriters, but even their work as writers has been very inconsistent – Horrible Bosses (pretty good), The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (just kinda okay), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (pretty bad), Horrible Bosses 2 (a much lesser rewrite of the original) and finally they hit the bulls-eye last year with the terrific Spider-Man: Homecoming (but they were just two of four writers on that project).

However, in this project, for the first time the two Johns were gun-for-hire directors. The screenplay was written by Mark Perez – and it’s his first theatrical screenplay in over 10 years. (He did write a TV movie in 2010.) He also had a rollercoaster ride of quality as a film writer, being best known for such uninspiring films as Accepted, Herbie Fully Loaded and The Country Bears. Who knows where this is going to lead?

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting much. So, credit where it is due: Game Night is one of the funniest comedies I’ve seen in a while. Yes, it’s kind of stupid. It’s kind of immature. It relies a bit too much on slapstick. And yes, sometimes it’s needlessly gross. But overall, it’s much funnier than I ever expected and a very, very pleasant surprise. Good for them.

Game Night is the story of Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams), a super-competitive couple that live for their weekly game nights, where they play things like Clue, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, etc., with their best friends. The normal participants are Annie’s friend Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his series of bimbo dates, and long-married school sweethearts Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury). They have been avoiding inviting the sad-sack policeman next door (Jesse Plemens), who used to be a regular until his wife left him and he has been moping around ever since.

The whole game night idea is thrown in chaos when Max’s semi-estranged brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) returns from Europe. Max has always envied Brooks – he’s smarter, richer, better looking, more confident – and he becomes distraught when Brooks sort of hijacks game night, having it in his rented McMansion, offering a vintage Corvette Stingray as an award, and hiring a company to create a massive murder mystery night, complete with actors, kidnapping, wild fights.

But as things get further out of control; as mobsters, killers, cops, smugglers, guns and dead bodies start to pile up, the group has to wonder – what’s real and what is the game?

It’s sort of like David Fincher’s The Game played for laughs. And that is a good thing.

Game Night is smart and funny and not afraid to push the envelope. Sometimes the movie goes way overboard for the cheap laughs – a scene in which a major character inadvertently bleeds profusely on a white dog comes immediately to mind – but a lot more of the jokes hit than miss the mark.

The more twists and turns the story takes, the more unlikely it becomes, the funnier it gets. Game Night plays by its own devious little rules, and surprisingly it mostly works. Game Night confidently advances to go and easily collects $200.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: February 23, 2018.

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